I’m a sucker for caper movies in which impossibly clever con artists do impossibly dangerous things while looking impossibly gorgeous. I could feel Focus trying to be that caper. I’m not asking for nirvana, such as Hitchcock’s Notorious or David O. Russell’s American Hustle, just a taste of sexy escapism. A taste is all you get in Focus, but it’ll do till the whole enchilada comes along.
Will Smith brings all his Slick Willie charm to the role of Nicky Spurgeon, a con man practically from the womb. Nicky and his crew can steal the tighty off your whities. His trick is to divert your focus so you won’t know what hit you. Naturally, Nicky never lets anyone get close. Then Jess Barrett (Margot Robbie) enters the scene. This bombshell is a rookie at the game until Nicky gives her his master class.
Glenn Ficarra and John Requa (Crazy, Stupid, Love), who share writing and directing chores on Focus, are setting up a romance between two people who can never trust each other. It’s a game that shows its hand way too early to take us in. But the two stars, looking glam as they traverse glam locales like New Orleans, New York and Buenos Aires, are dazzling distractions. Robbie is a wow and then some. The Aussie actress who made us sit up and take notice as Leonardo DiCaprio’s wife in The Wolf of Wall Street shows a comic flair backed up with beauty and steel. Even when Focus fumbles, Robbie deals a winning hand.